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Rams top Mountain West rankings with huge rally; Nevada fifth

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada guard Desmond Cambridge Jr., flies to the hoop against New Mexico on Saturday.
University of New Mexico

The San Diego State Aztecs and Colorado State Rams proved on Saturday that no fans in the arena clearly means no home court advantage this season.

“Home court is not home court anymore without the fans in the building,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said after a stunning 70-67 loss to the Rams at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena.

Colorado State moved into the top spot in the latest Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings by outscoring the No. 2 Aztecs 11-0 in the final 1:53.



The comeback (San Diego State led by as much as 26 points) is the largest in Mountain West history, surpassing the 25-point comeback victory by Nevada over New Mexico on Jan. 7, 2017.

“We lost focus,” San Diego State’s Matt Mitchell said.



“Anything that could have gone wrong down the stretch went wrong,” Dutcher said. “But they (Colorado State) deserved it.”

San Diego State nearly blew the Rams out of the gym in the first half, taking leads of 28-5 and 33-7 in the first half.

“It couldn’t have gone worse to start the game,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “It was like a blitzkrieg. We were like, ‘Oh, my gosh. What are we going to do?’”

The Rams, though, showed a sign of things to come by going on a 21-2 run to close the first half, cutting the deficit to 40-33 at the break.

“I don’t know if I believed it,” Medved said, “but I told the guys at halftime, ‘We are going to find a way to win this game.”

The Rams also went on a 14-0 run to cut the Aztecs’ lead to 50-49 midway through the second half. The Aztecs, though, still led 67-59 with two minutes to play.

Colorado State dominated the final two minutes, getting a free throw from Adam Thistlewood to start the comeback. Isaiah Stevens’ layup cut the Aztecs’ lead to 67-62 and John Tonje’s layup made it 67-64. Tonje then drained a 3-pointer and a free throw for a four-point play as Colorado State took a shocking 68-67 lead with 12 seconds left. Two more free throws with two seconds left by Kendle Moore made the final score 70-67.

San Diego State was 0-for-3 from the floor, 0-for-1 at the line, committed four fouls and turned the ball over once in the final 1:53.

“That is college basketball,” Dutcher said. “There are always games like this with great swings of momentum.”

Colorado State (6-1, 3-0) opened the week by whipping No. 10 Fresno State twice, 75-53 and 81-59. David Roddy, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds against San Diego State, had 19 points and 13 points in the 75-53 victory and 17 points and 11 boards in the 81-59 win.

No. 3 Boise State (8-1, 4-0) pounded No. 12 San Jose State 106-54 on Thursday and returned two days later and narrowly escaped an upset loss, winning just 87-86.

Derrick Alston, the third leading scorer in the Mountain West at 17.9 points a game, had 43 points in the two games combined for Boise State. Boise State was a perfect 25-of-25 from the free throw line in the 106-54 win.

San Jose State (1-6, 0-4) got 26 points (seven threes) from Richard Washington in the 87-86 loss. Washington is second in the Mountain West in scoring at 20.7 points a game. Jalen Dalcourt had 23 (three threes) for the Spartans on Saturday.

No. 4 Wyoming won its only game of the week, 78-74 over Fresno State on Saturday. Hunter Thompson had 22 points (7-of-8 on threes) for the Cowboys.

Fresno State, now 2-3, 0-3, got 19 points from Deon Stroud, 17 from Isaiah Hill and 15 from Orlando Robinson. The Bulldogs, though, were 5-of-16 on threes.

No. 5 Nevada (8-3, 3-1), swept two games from No. 7 New Mexico (3-4, 0-4) in Lubbock, Texas. The Wolf Pack won 68-54 on Thursday and 84-74 on Saturday as guard Grant Sherfield scored 48 points in the two games combined.

Both teams battled foul trouble in the two games. Nevada was called for 54 fouls in the two games while New Mexico was whistled 46 times. Wolf Pack centers Warren Washington and K.J. Hymes fouled out of both games. Hymes got his 10 fouls in just 32 minutes over the two games while Washington played just 45 minutes. Nevada’s Tre Coleman had eight fouls in the two games (four in each) in just 39 combined minutes.

Nevada got 10 rebounds from Zane Meeks in the 68-54 win and 14 points (4-of-4 on threes) from Kane Milling on Saturday. Sherfield was 16-of-18 on free throws in the two games combined.

“It wasn’t like it was perfect by any means in both games,” Nevada coach Steve Alford said. “But they’re learning, they’re growing and doing a lot of good things together.”

Makuach Maluach had 28 points in the two games combined for New Mexico. The Lobos, though, were 3-of-14 on threes on Thursday and 34-of-64 on free throws in the two games.

No. 6 Utah State drilled Air Force twice last week, 83-48 and 72-53, to improve to 7-3, 4-0. The Aggies had five players score in double figures on Thursday and four on Saturday, with no player scoring more than 15 points in either game.

Air Force’s A.J. Walker scored 19 on Saturday. The Falcons, though, were 5-of-19 on threes and committed 26 turnovers in the 35-point loss on Thursday.

This will be a pivotal week in the Mountain West with several key two-game series. No. 8 UNLV is hoping to return to the court after a five-week layoff with two games at Colorado State. Nevada is at San Diego State for a pair of games and Utah State is at New Mexico for two games.

The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings:

1. COLORADO STATE (6-1, 3-0): Last week: Colorado State 75, Fresno State 53; Colorado State 81, Fresno State 59; Colorado State 70, San Diego State 67. This week: Colorado State at San Diego State (Jan. 4); UNLV at Colorado State (Jan. 7, 9).

2. SAN DIEGO STATE (6-2, 0-1): Last week: Colorado State 70, San Diego State 67. This week: Colorado State at San Diego State (Jan. 4); Nevada at San Diego State (Jan. 7, 9).

3. BOISE STATE (8-1, 4-0): Last week: Boise State 106, San Jose State 54; Boise State 87, San Jose State 86. This week: This week: Air Force at Boise (Jan. 6, 8).

4. WYOMING (7-1, 1-0): Last week: Wyoming 78, Fresno State 74. This week: Wyoming at Fresno State (Jan. 4).

5. NEVADA (8-3, 3-1): Last week: Nevada 68, New Mexico 54; Nevada 84, New Mexico 74. This week: Nevada at San Diego State (Jan. 7, 9).

6. UTAH STATE (7-3, 4-0): Last week: Utah State 83, San Jose State 48; Utah State 72, Air Force 53. This week: Utah State at New Mexico (Jan. 6, 8).

7. NEW MEXICO (3-4, 0-4): Last week: Nevada 68, New Mexico 54; Nevada 84, New Mexico 74. This week: Utah State at New Mexico (Jan. 6, 8).

8. UNLV (1-4, 0-0): Last week: Idle. This week: UNLV at Colorado State (Jan. 7, 9).

9. AIR FORCE (3-5, 1-3): Last week: Utah State 83, San Jose State 48; Utah State 72, Air Force 53. This week: Air Force at Boise (Jan. 6, 8).

10. FRESNO STATE (2-3, 0-3): Last week: Colorado State 75, Fresno State 53; Colorado State 81, Fresno State 59; Wyoming 78, Fresno State 74. This week: Wyoming at Fresno State (Jan. 4); San Jose State at Fresno State (Jan. 8, 10).

11. SAN JOSE STATE (1-6, 0-4): Last week: Boise State 106, San Jose State 54; Boise State 87, San Jose State 86. This week: Benedictine at San Jose State (Jan. 4); San Jose State at Fresno State (Jan. 8, 10).